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For the environment

Paper bags have amazing advantages in terms of environmental friendliness. They work to create a more sustainable world because ...

  • they are natural and biodegradable
  • they are reusable and recyclable
  • their raw material is sourced from sustainably managed forests
  • they store carbon dioxide (CO2)

The environmental symbols created by The Paper Bag help companies demonstrate their environmental responsibility, promote the sustainability credentials of paper bags and share them with consumers.

Paper bags are natural and biodegradable

The raw material used in papermaking – cellulose fibre extracted from wood – is a renewable and ever-growing natural resource. Due to their natural characteristics, paper bags degrade when they mistakenly end up in nature. When using natural water-based colours and starch-based adhesives, paper bags do not harm the environment.

Paper bags are reusable and recyclable

Thanks to the long, strong virgin cellulose fibres used in paper bags, they have a high mechanical strength. Paper bags can be reused several times thanks to their good quality and design. In a four-part video series by “The Paper Bag” the reusability of paper bags is put to the acid test. The same paper bag withstands four uses with heavy loads of around eight kilos or more, as well as challenging shopping items with moisture content and sharp edges and bumpy everyday transport situations. After four trips, it is even good for another use. The long fibres of the paper bags also make them a good source for recycling. With 73.9 % recycling rate in 20201, Europe is the world leader in recycling paper. 56 million tonnes of paper were recycled, that’s 1.8 tonnes every second! Paper bags and paper sacks are a part of this loop. A recent study2 suggests that paper-based packaging can even be recycled more than 25 times before it is turned into bioenergy or being composted at the end of its life cycle. Recycling paper means reducing polluting emissions produced by landfill sites.

Paper bags are sourced from sustainably managed forests

The cellulose fibres that are used as raw material to produce paper bags in Europe are mostly sourced from sustainably managed European forests. They are extracted from tree thinning and from process waste from the sawn timber industry. Every year, more wood grows than is harvested in European forests. Between 1990 and 2020, the area of forests in Europe has increased by 9%, amounting to 227 million hectares. That means, more than a third of Europe is covered by forests.3 Sustainable forest management maintains biodiversity and ecosystems and provides a habitat for wildlife, recreational areas and jobs. Forests have an enormous potential to mitigate climate change when they grow.

Paper bags store CO2

Trees absorb CO2 from the atmosphere and emit oxygen when they grow. The average annual sequestration of carbon in the European region reached 155 million tonnes between 2010 and 2020. The sequestration corresponds to around 10% of gross greenhouse gas emissions in the EU-28.4 Furthermore, as a wood product, paper continues to store carbon throughout its lifetime. This carbon sequestration time is extended when we recycle the paper. Thus, paper bags are effective against climate change.

Further information on how paper bags contribute to a more environmentally friendly world can be found in The Green Book.


European Paper Recycling Council, Monitoring Report 2020, 2021


Technische Universität Graz, Austria, Recyclability of cartonboard and carton, 2021


Forest Europe, State of Europe’s Forests 2020, 2020


Forest Europe, State of Europe’s Forests 2020, 2020

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